If your dying friend or relative is familiar with some kind

of meditation practice, encourage him or her to rest in meditation

as much as possible, and meditate with the person as

death approaches. If the dying person is at all open to the idea

of spiritual practice, help the person find a suitable, simple

practice, do it with him or her as often as possible, and keep

reminding the person gently of it as death nears.

Be resourceful and inventive in how you help at this crucial

moment, for a great deal depends on it: The whole atmosphere

of dying can be transformed if people find a practice

they can do wholeheartedly before and as they die. There are

so many aspects of spiritual practice; use your acumen and

sensitivity to find the one they might be most connected with:

it could be forgiveness, purification, dedication, or feeling the

presence of light or love. And as you help them begin, pray

for the success of their practice with all your heart and mind;

pray for them to be given every energy and faith to follow the

path they choose. I have known people even at the latest

stages of dying make the most startling spiritual progress by

using one prayer or one mantra or one simple visualization

with which they really made a connection in their heart.

Stephen Levine tells the story of a woman he was counseling

who was dying of cancer. 2 She felt lost because, although

she had a natural devotion to Jesus Christ, she had left the

church. Together they explored what she might do to

strengthen that faith and devotion. She came to the realization

that what would help her renew her connection with Christ,

and find some trust and confidence while dying, would be to

repeat continuously the prayer, "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy

on me." Saying this prayer opened her heart, and she began to

feel Christ's presence with her at all times.


The most valuable and powerful of all practices I have

found in caring for the dying, one which I have seen an astonishing

number of people take to with enthusiasm, is a practice

from the Tibetan tradition called phowa (pronounced "po-wa"),

which means the transference of consciousness.

Phowa for dying people has been performed by friends, relatives,

or masters, quite simply and naturally, all over the

modern world—in Australia, America, and Europe. Thousands

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